Archives for category: Central government

7pm at Wylde Green United Reformed Church, Britwell Road, B73 5SW

Global Justice Now

formerly known as the World Development Movement (WDM),

Click on the image to enlarge 

The decision to leave the European Union is the biggest political choice the UK has made in a generation.

It has had serious knock-on effects for the UK’s political landscape, and has the potential to fundamentally change the future shape of the country’s politics.

Unfortunately, some are looking to use the new situation to further roll back human rights, even threatening some of the key victories achieved by social justice campaigners in the twentieth century.

Even the European Convention on Human Rights, which the UK has been part of since 1953, has been called into question.

 

Read more about Global Justice Now here: http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/

 

 

 

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WEST MIDLANDS NEW ECONOMICS GROUP

Date: Thursday 22nd February, 5pm-7pm

John Nightingale, who will be chairing this session, intends to do a brief introduction. He sent a background  paper to members of the group to avoid having to share the information at the meeting. The question posed is:

What values and priorities do we wish to see retained and/or developed through the Brexit process (whatever the result), and what mechanisms do we suggest for expressing them? 

Venue: The Community Hub room, Level 4, John Lewis, Birmingham Grand Central Railway Station aka New Street Station. The John Lewis Community Hub is located on the 4th floor of the John Lewis store over the station (lift and escalator), immediately off the area where television sets are being sold.

Newcomers who wish to receive John’s paper beforehand should contact  Comments on the WMNEG website.

 

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn’s amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, aimed to retain the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and ensure that it would be transferred, with the rest of EU law, when Britain leaves the EU in March 2019. 

See: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2017-2019/0147/amend/eu_daily_rep_0115.1-7.html

48 Labour MPs voted against the amendment, including Daniel Zeichner, Chuka Umunna, Ben Bradshaw, Chris Bryant, Frank Field, Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer with many Conservatives, Scottish National Party MPs, Liberal Democrat MPs and Tory MP, Ken Clarke. The full list of voters may be seen here.

 Graphic and list below: https://skwawkbox.org/2018/01/18/308-tories-voted-last-night-fundamental-rights-not-part-of-domestic-law-on-or-after-exit-day/

They include the rights: 

o    to life

o    not to be tortured, or experimented on against our will

o    to liberty and security

o    to private and family life

o    to freedom of thought and expression

o    to academic freedom

o    to education

o    to equality before the law

o    to fair and just working conditions

o    to be protected from unfair dismissal

o    to social security and protections

o    to vote

o    to good government

o    to freedom of movement

o    to a fair trial 

“The guarantee to the British people is that their Parliament will look after their rights.”  

    MP John Redwood argued, “the best guarantee of the fundamental rights of the British people is the will of the British people as expressed through the Parliaments they elect . . . The guarantee to the British people is that their Parliament will look after their rights.”

The former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, however, pointed out that “the whole point about the Human Rights Act was that it added to protections enjoyed under the common law and did so in a way that was compatible with this House’s sovereignty.”

He said that failing to incorporate the Charter into UK law after Brexit would send out a strange message about the Conservative’s approach to human rights, and urged peers to consider the issue when the bill passes to the House of Lords.

In the understatement of the year he added: “Nice as it is to rely upon the Executive’s goodwill … that goodwill is not something that we should always rely on”.

First published in Political Concern

 

 

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This question was posed last week and I replied cautiously, “Wait and see”.

However a link from Welfare Weekly sent by a Bournville reader led to forebodings.

It included information taken from the website ‘They Work for You‘ which shows that Esther McVey, who has been appointed as Secretary for Work and Pensions:

  • consistently voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms (which Labour describe as the “bedroom tax”),
  • consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices,
  • consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability,
  • generally voted for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support,
  • consistently voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits and
  • generally voted against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed.

Then a message about Dominic Raab’s appointment as new housing minister appeared in the inbox 

It recalled that only a year ago, Labour attempted to get an amendment added to the Housing and Planning Bill requiring that houses rented to human beings be ‘fit for human habitation’.

Raab voted against making it a legal requirement for rented housing to be fit for people to live in. Indeed, as the party voting record for the amendment shows, not a single Conservative MP voted to support it.

Another cause for concern was his remark about foodbank users in his constituencies, first reported in the local media: “I’ve studied the Trussell Trust data, what they tend to find is the typical user of a foodbank is not someone that is languishing in poverty, it is someone who has a cash flow problem episodically”.

But the Cobham Foodbank in Mr Raab’s constituency, affiliated to the Trussell Trust, has issued figures on referrals to its service from April 2016 to March 2017: low income was the main reason more than 910 adults and children received foodbank aid over the 12 months. Debt was the second most likely cause to seek assistance, with 669 people, including 362 children, helped by the foodbank. And more than 160 people were referred due to benefit changes and delays.

Most of the comfortable merely feel uneasy about these appointments, but people struggling on low incomes, in poor-quality housing or homeless must be taking these appointments to heart and feeling profoundly worried about their future.

 

 

 

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Steve Walker blogs:

In spite of Labour’s General Election surge and its continued polling strength – not to mention more than thirty u-turns Labour under Corbyn had already forced from the Conservatives before the election – the line persists in some quarters that Labour is not an effective opposition.

That line tends to be spouted either by those who think defeating Brexit is the only important task for the opposition – or by those who talk like it for factional purposes – ignoring the fact that Corbyn’s handling of the issue has been intelligent, nuanced and politically skilful.

So, as it’s the time of year for round-ups, here is a non-exhaustive list of sixteen u-turns that the Conservatives have been forced to make because there is an opposition party willing and able to stand for something different.

And for those who think Brexit is the only vital issue, the first three are Brexit-related:

  1. Brexit deal vote u-turn
  2. Brexit impact assessment u-turn
  3. European Court of Human Rights u-turn
  4. Dementia Tax u-turn (unprecedentedly dropped from the manifesto before the GE)
  5. Pensions triple lock u-turn
  6. Housing benefit cap for supported housing u-turn
  7. Self-employed National Insurance increase u-turn
  8. School meals cost u-turn
  9. NHS Professionals sell-off u-turn
  10. Police funding u-turn
  11. Fire safety in schools u-turn
  12. Grammar schools u-turn
  13. Abortion for Northern Irish women u-turn
  14. Winter fuel payments u-turn
  15. Universal Credit 7-day waiting period u-turn
  16. Universal Credit freephone u-turn
  17. Fox-hunting u-turn
  18. Diesel tax u-turn
  19. Manchester terror attack costs u-turn
  20. Prisoner vote u-turn

The government has been weakened by Corbyn’s Labour taking a clear, firm stand – and the Labour surge resulting from the party presenting a genuine alternative.

2017 has been a historic year for Labour and much of that can be attributed to Corbyn’s vision, leadership and his strength in standing firm against an unprecedented media onslaught – and it’s been a better year for millions of UK people as a result of Labour’s effective opposition.

 

 

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In 2017 housing rose to the top of the British political agenda for the first time in a generation. But despite the media spotlight, few stories examined the catastrophic long-term failures that resulted in a chronic shortage of social housing in the United Kingdom.

For some people, a housing crisis means not getting planning permission for a loft conversion. For others it means, quite simply, losing their home.

Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle (available as DVD) is a feature documentary directed by Paul Sng (Sleaford Mods: Invisible Britain) and narrated by Maxine Peake. It explores the catastrophic failures that have led to a chronic shortage of social housing in Britain.

Event Details:

Wednesday 28 February 2018. Arrival from 17:00, doors at 17:30 with the film to commence at 18:00, ends at 21:15

Great Hall | People’s Palace | Queen Mary University of London | E1 4NS Mile End Road | United Kingdom

A limited number of free tickets for individuals facing financial difficulty are available. If you would like to request one of these, please e-mail lawevents@qmul.ac.uk.

 

 

 

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‘The Labour party would have found an ally in Attwood’

Dr Geoffrey Ingham, Financial Times (Letters):

“The early 19th century member of parliament, proto-Keynesian and pro-industry Birmingham banker Thomas Attwood must be cheering from his grave at the Labour party’s proposal to move most of the Bank of England to Birmingham “to shake up more than three centuries of association between the Old Lady and the City of London”.

“In the 1820s, Attwood railed against the City and the Bank in parliament and print: “Half the circulation of the kingdom is determined in stagnant masses into what is called the money market, in order to gorge the moneyed interest.” Rather, he advocated that “the use of credit should be expanded until the demand for labour, in all the great departments of industry, becomes permanently greater than its supply”.

“The prime minister, Lord Melbourne, summarily dismissed his impudence: “Birmingham is not England.”

“If Labour’s fantasy is to be pursued perhaps they might also look at the part played by the Treasury in the fate of the Wilson-Brown industrial strategy in the 1960s. Attwood was again prescient:

“The Bank of England is a grand political engine . . . by means of which the Treasury may pinch and grind the country as they please.”

“In Yes, Prime Minister, the PM Jim Hacker sent shivers through Sir Humphrey Appleby with his plan to relocate the Treasury “somewhere up North”. Needless to say, Sir Humphrey prevailed.”

In an email message Geoffrey Ingham said that he came across Thomas Attwood when he was writing his book Capitalism Divided? (1984) on the deleterious effects of the City and its close links with the Bank and Treasury, on the British economy. He added that Attwood has been very much overlooked in academic economics and history and that he broadly agrees with Attwood’s aims.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On November 25 the Conservative Party held a convention in Birmingham attended by 100 invited people, which rewrote sections of the party’s constitution.

The Campaign for Conservative Democracy mounted a campaign: Last Chance to save the Conservative Party, prompted by a document sent out by Rob Semple chairman of the Conservative Convention and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Board (above, with Theresa May).

The Draft Proposed Rule Changes for discussion at a meeting of the National Conservative Convention on 25 November 2017 included plans to:

  • rewrite the party constitution to remove references to constituencies altogether;
  • limit the right of local associations to choose their own candidates;
  • scrap the annual meeting of the Conservative Convention where people could listen and vote for candidates for top posts and
  • use on-line voting for all top posts in the party.

Reporting this, David Hencke asks if final approval will be given for these changes in the Conservative Party constitution at a meeting of the 1922 Committee (the Commons parliamentary group of the Conservative Party) at the March 2018 meeting of the Conservative Convention in Westminster?

If so, as David Hencke comments, “the contrast could not be much starker. Labour will go into the next general election as a mass movement with a mass membership who can influence policy and decide on who stands for Parliament, the police and the local council”.

Apparently oblivious of this Conservative development, The Times’ Lucy Fisher alleges Labour are forcing out so-called ‘moderates’ (aka New Labour Blairites) in a ‘purge’.

Times reader James comments: “We seem to be living in a parallel universe where the party that is open to all to join and all members have a vote to choose local candidates and party leader is being regularly criticised for being oppressive”.

Gary Younge writes: “Corbyn emerged in the wake of a global financial crisis, in a country rocked by the phone hacking scandal, the MPs’ expenses scandal and Operation Yewtree. His ascendancy represents a desire for a more participatory, bottom-up kind of politics that takes on not only the Tories in parliament, but inequality in the economy, unfairness in society and power where it has not previously been held to account”.

 

 

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There is a substantial and interesting article about the work of Joseph Chamberlain on the website of the Centre for Retail Research.

It ends with the reflection that Chamberlain’s ideas about the need to protect people in lower income groups from oppression and bad faith seem resonant today and continues:

What does Chamberlainism mean for Mrs May and industry?

Probably a recalibration of policy with a much greater focus on work, opportunities and living standards using an expansionist industry policy. We can discern five themes relevant to today:

  • A comprehensive industrial strategy, based on local needs and using local knowledge intended to replace imports and create the vital supply chains needed by British business.
  • New housing, potentially a provider of 1mn new jobs and a swift way of improving the living standards and opportunities. 
  • For education, an increased focus on science, maths, technical subjects and foreign languages; abandoning the current emphasis on university as the only useful goal for young people; and increased focus on vocational training, retraining and part-time study for adults. 
  • A concern for manufacturing industry and jobs once again, rather than assuming that retail, service industries, banking and the City of London are all one needs to worry about to provide work.
  • Requiring Government permission before a significant UK business is purchased by a foreign company.

Read the whole article here: http://www.retailresearch.org/chamberlain.php

 

 

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Corbyn’s core philosophy

We must recognise that every single child in this country has talents and every single child deserves the chance to flourish and thrive to their maximum potential in whichever field suits them best. That focus on the individual child is what drives our determination to reduce class sizes. We know that half a million children have been landed in super-size classes of 31 pupils or more.

He opened by setting out an all-embracing programme:

  • a government for the many not the few
  • invest in our economy and public services.
  • give the richest and largest corporations tax hand-outs worth tens of billions.
  • The NHS and social care have been pushed into a state of emergency.
  • Housebuilding has fallen to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s.
  • Schools across the country face real terms cuts in funding per pupil,
  • and class sizes are rising –
  • while those young people who want to go to university face huge debts.

His undertakings:

Labour will introduce a National Education Service, ensuring excellent learning opportunities for all from early years to adult education and halt closures of Sure Start centres and increase the funding for them.

Universal free school meals for pupils at primary schools will be introduced to help teachers who will see the benefits of improved concentration and improved attainment in the classroom. It will also help parents who will not only save money but have the peace of mind in knowing that their child is getting a healthy school meal during the day. Investing in the health of our nation’s children, is investing in our nation’s future.

If we are to build an economy worthy of the 21st century, we need a schools system that looks forwards, and not backwards to the failed models of the past.

The task is clear: we must build an education system that suits the needs of our children and the opportunities they will have in the jobs market of tomorrow.

 

Read the full text here: https://watershed2015.wordpress.com/articles-addresses-worth-reading/jeremy-corbyns-2017-election-address-to-head-teachers/